There are certain losses to teams that Bulls fans can live with. The Boston Celtics are not one of those teams. But without Derrick Rose, the Bulls/Celtics rivalry just isn’t the same as it once was.
What looked like a convincing loss against the Celtics on Monday night ended up being a very intriguing game at the end. Of course, the outcome still ended up not being in the Bulls favor, but it was a respectable effort by the home team down the stretch, and had it not been for a few errors (forced and unforced), the end result could have been Chicago’s first victory over an elite NBA squad.
Luol Deng (26 points, 11 rebounds) had another solid effort for Chicago despite playing nearly the entire game (45 minutes). He was the Bulls' only scoring option down the stretch and responsible for some key baskets late that kept them in the game. Joakim Noah (17 points, 11 rebounds) also played well as did Nate Robinson (11 points, seven assists) who got the start in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich. Carlos Boozer (15 points) had a much better game scoring but only grabbed four rebounds. Chicago made a run to get back in the game in the fourth quarter when Boston went cold and Tom Thibodeau gave his rookie point guard a chance to get some meaningful minutes in a game and he did a solid job. Chicago also controlled the glass, out-rebounding Boston 40-34.
Rip Hamilton (8 points) was the only starter not in double figures in the game and the bench was outscored by Boston, 27-18. The Bulls also turned the ball over 14 times compared to Boston’s eight, and never held the lead in the game, trailing by as many as 14 points.
The Bulls' reputation for being a tough defensive team wasn’t on display Monday night. The Celtics finished the game slightly above 50 percent shooting from the field and Chicago had absolutely no answer for Rajon Rondo (20 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds, five steals) who controlled the game from start to finish. Chicago also failed to convert at the line when it mattered. Most notably two missed free throws by Luol Deng late – which worked out due to an offensive rebound which turned into a score – and then Taj Gibson which could’ve put the Bulls in great position to steal the win. The fact that Thibs went with Teague for the entire fourth quarter is a sure sign that the Hinrich injury is pretty serious. He could've gone with Nate Robinson late in the game, but it was clear he was trying to get his rookie some experience as he's going to need him on the team's upcoming five-game West coast road trip.